Once upon a time, record companies released what might be termed "easy listening" albums, albums that would serve as music for post-toil relaxation or "mood enhancement." (Sample title: "Music To Change Her Mind" by Jackie Gleason, who conducted albums of such ultra-mellow sounds, which not so incidentally featured soloists like Bobby Hackett.) These sets featured an instrumental soloist playing along/over string-heavy orchestrations that might be charitably termed "overripe." Hardcore jazzheads would insist that the record companies pressured jazz players to record these E-Z listening albums (which accented mood over freewheeling group interaction), but [gasp!] some jazz musicians actually wanted to do "those kind" of albums. RCA has reach back into the archives for this gem, helmed by one of the (if not THE) King of The Cool Saxophone, Mr. Paul Desmond and his trusty sidekick, guitarist Jim Hall.
Paul Desmond was one of the few major modern alto saxophonists who was not of "the Charlie Parker school." (Closer to the Lester Young school, actually.) His sound was virtually vibrato-free, cool, reserved and dry - but that’s "dry" as in "dry heat" or more aptly, a "dry" wine or martini. Passion was always there, he just didn’t "flaunt" it in obvious ways. Desmond Blue is all ballad standards like "My Funny Valentine," "Ill Wind," and "Body and Soul," except for the title tune, dressed up in lots of lush, ornate strings and languorous rhythms, with The Man’s elegant alto shining through. The remastered sound has a nice, sharp contrast to it - there’s a vivid distinction to the instruments in the mix. Desmond Blue is probably not the album to begin with Desmond’s artistry, but fans of his - and fans of those "jazz musicians with strings" album, you know who you are - will need to own this deluxe (7 bonus tracks!) reissue.